19th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2016 – Year C
7 August 2016
Hebrews 11.1-2, 8-19
Some years ago a friend of mine went on a plane journey for the first time. When the air hostess asked those on board for their attention to the safety instructions he paid great attention, not having heard them before. He heard the hostess telling them where the emergency exits were, how to use an oxygen mask should there be a drop in cabin pressure, where the safety jackets were and how to use them. The idea behind all the instructions was to help passengers to be prepared for the unexpected.
In the gospel and readings today Jesus gives us some instructions regarding the flight of life, that is our journey through life. We hear in the first reading that just as God came to the rescue of the Jews in Egypt, so he will save those who put their trust in him. In the gospel we are asked to be prepared for the unexpected. We are called to be ready whenever the Lord returns to take us with him.
The whole point of today’s readings is not to frighten or threaten us. It is the very opposite. The opening lines of the gospel give us the good news when Jesus says to his disciples and that includes us: ’There is no need to be afraid little flock, for it has pleased your father to give you the kingdom’. So the kingdom is a sheer gift from our loving God. He does not want us to get involved in any kind of lifestyle by which we could get sidetracked by a false value system or to forget our goal.
Just as a business man will invest wisely or get involved in projects which will ensure a good return we are asked by Jesus to do the very same to ensure our future happiness. The best down payment we can make towards being assured of our heavenly home is almsgiving and whatever lifestyle or good deeds that are demanded of us because of our vocation. That is why Jesus advises us to get purses that do not wear out, treasure that will not fail us. For where our treasure is, Jesus says, there will our heart be. What really is treasure for us? Where, in fact, is your heart and mine?
As life goes on we may become increasingly aware of how fleeting it is. And how precarious our hold on life is. An incident some years ago taught me this lesson. I read about a young man who was shot in Dublin, Ireland because he was mistaken for someone else whom the gunmen were seeking. Neither he, nor his family foresaw his totally unexpected and sudden death. Who would have foreseen his unexpected death? Nearly all of us know of people who die as a result of cancer which attacks them out of the blue. Our lives hang by a thread. Life can be taken away from us in the twinkling of an eye.
Jesus was aware of the uncertainty of life. His parable stresses the fact that death can come at any moment. It isn’t that God tries to catch us unawares like a thief breaking into a house. That would be unthinkable. Death, not God, is the thief that robs us of life.
The uncertainty of life should not prevent us from enjoying life in the present. And we don’t know if we will have that chance to live long. What we do have is an opportunity to be faithful to our responsibilities and commitments on a daily basis, like the good and wise steward Jesus spoke about. Then we can go forward into the unknown like Abraham did, trusting in God’s gracious and loving care.
One day a monk was sweeping a floor in the monastery when someone asked him what he would do if he knew he was going to die within the hour. ‘I’d go on sweeping the floor’, he replied. In other words he was attending to the duty of the moment.
What we are talking about is faith, the faith Abraham showed in the second reading. The letter to the Hebrews reminds us: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen. (Heb.11.1). Ultimately faith is about trust. Will we trust that Jesus will come again and in the meantime try our best to live as good servants of his in this life.
It is easy and tempting to think of the coming of the Lord at the end of time, when our own lives will most probably be over. It is more challenging to imagine that perhaps the Lord comes to us in less dramatic ways, in our daily dealings with each other, in situations that call for personal honesty and integrity. The clearest and surest ways that the Lord enters our lives is when we celebrate the Eucharist together, when we receive the food which sustained the Israelites of their journey in the desert.
It is amazing that the Lord when he finds his servants doing their work faithfully when he returns, will actually sit them down at table, put on an apron and wait on them hand and foot. This is really something! Being raised up all because our head was focused down on the task given.
Let us pray for a renewal of faith in our own day, a faith that will enlighten our way, enabling us to travel lightly as pilgrims, choosing to live more simply that others may simply live.
“Lord Jesus, help us to believe totally that you are our treasure that no thief can reach nor moth destroy. Give us a great increase of faith and trust in you that especially in dark and difficult times we will be faithful to you and to your promises. Amen.”
Fr. Jim Kirstein SMA